You guys remember the Wing War, right? The chicken wing competition hosted by Asheville Food Fights back in March, in which I was a “Celebrity Judge?”
The crowning fucking achievement of my otherwise pointless life?!?
Well, I met some of the readers there, including Leanne (sorry I haven’t been in touch, Honey! I’m a turd of a friend), Mr. Zeau, and a fun couple named June and Rick. June was all giggles and smiles and showed me her T-shirt, which said “I like to drink beer and hump things,” Rick’s chill demeanor and slightly mischievous smirk seemed to say, “I am enjoying this Sierra Nevada as much as, if not perhaps even a little more than these wings.” Nice folks all around! I heart Asheville! Ya buncha freaks.
Skip ahead a few months, and I’m sitting in Isa’s bistro, on a Tuesday, posting pictures of my Burger Day burger on Facebook…
Just in case you didn’t know: Chef Duane Fernandes cooks up a different Specialty Burger every Tuesday at Isa’s .
That week it was a Mac ‘n’ Cheese Burger, which was effin’ aye good, Yo, and I was letting the world know all about it, posting live as I stuffed it in my face.
About halfway through my meal, I spied a couple walking past the giant windows. (Isa’s has some of the best indoor / outdoor people watching in Ashetown, my friends.)
These are my thoughts:
“Mmm… I love you chef Duane… nom nom… uh, good lookin’ lady outside… chew chew… Oh, God, these smashed fingerlingerding-a-ling fries… so crispy… so good… gulp chomp… uh, she’s coming in here… there’s a dude with her… he’s pointing at me…”
“Stu Helm: World Famous Food Critic!” Says the dude, a little smirk on his face.
I smile back, and wave. I’m friendly, if slightly confused. I’m not sure if I know these people or what. They approach, I rise to greet them, and the good looking lady reminds me of the Wing War, her T-Shirt, and their names: June and Rick.
Ah! June and Rick! They are also here for the Tuesday Burger Day special. Fellow food fans. We laugh and chat a little and they take their seats outside.
The very next day… I’m sitting outside at True Confecs, having one of those Homemade Twix Bars I gushed about last week… plus two pieces of rugelach… and coffee. I take a picture, and post it with a caption that says something along the lines of, “I’m at True Confections! Yum yum! Fuck! Good! Yum! Fuck!” (Or whatever other inane nonsense I’m prone to write at any given time.)
One half of a second later… June, comes busting out of the Grove Arcade building, and makes a bee-line straight for my table, a big smile on her face.
The very first thing she says is, “I swear we’re not stalking you!” And then she laughs. “Ha ha ha!”
One of my observations in life: People who swear they aren’t doing something, are totally doing that thing.
June continues… “We saw on Facebook just now that you were here, so I had to come down (Yep. Stalker.) to invite you out to Del Vecchios! Our treat! They have great Italian food!”
Um, let me think for a secon… “YES!”
I abso-fucking-lutely live for moments like this.
We made our plans, and before we met for lunch, I asked them if it was okay to refer to them as my Official Food Stalkers. June said, “of course!” I already love these people.
They kidnapped… er, I mean.. picked me up me for lunch last week, and man oh man, not only was the food really good, but it was a really fun lunch date!
“5 stars! I was never bored! Rick is a sweetheart and June is a hoot! We laughed, we ate, we had a mutual fan fest! I recommend June and Rick wholeheartedly!”
Here’s my review of of the venue and food…
DEL VECCHIOS – 333 Merrimon Ave.
First of all, I like numbers. “33” is my all-time fave number, and “333” is like a “33” club sandwich, so I gotta love that!. Plus it’s half of 666, and we all know about that number. So Metal. But enough about the address…
We rolled into the parking lot of the Bar of Soap, and… oh, what? You didn’t know that Del Vecchios is located inside of a laundry mat? You can smell the frickin’ Tide. And I’m not talkin’ about seafood here. Fortunately for me, I like the smell of laundry detergent, and I found it strangely comforting.
Fresh clothes, good company, and Lasagna Bolognese ordered from a grease-stained menu. Yeah, Man! Let’s see if these mothers can turn it out.
I am an Italian food snob. Sort of. I mean, it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it better be fucking good! Although I do also like the fancy stuff too. I go both ways.
I basically believe that there are two kinds of good Italian restaurant food: There’s the fore-mentioned fancy stuff, and then there’s the kind you get in a classic family-run, family-style restaurant.
Food that is tried and true, made from good ingredients, cooked with expertise, and served in bulk. As in: Giant portions of pasta and cheese and meat and sauce and bread. Carbs, fats, and proteins all smothered in a delicious sauce of one kind or another. No Sysco bullshit. No nonsense. Everything made from scratch in the kitchen. I grew up eating it, and loving it.
Del Vecchios seems to serve this second variety of Italian Restaurant Food, except that it’s not in a family style restaurant… it comes from out of a tiny window behind a beer counter at a laundry mat. Oh yeah, there’s a beer counter, which is not part of Del Vecchios, they are two separate entities occupying the same physical space. I think the beer counter it is part of the laundry mat though… or maybe the book store? There’s a used book store in there too.
Okay, it’s a weird set-up. But it’s cool. I like it.
The beer is micro-brewed cans only, and I think they offer something like 90 varieties. The books are cheap and well organized. The laundry facilities are great. I used to use them when I lived in NAVL, before Del Vec’s was wedged into the mix. Big machines, reasonably priced.
The lasagna? Lasagna is my litmus test of Italian Food, and Del Vecchios passed the test! The sauce was very tasty and well made. The cheese was great and there was plenty of it. A ton, actually. The pasta was slightly over-cooked, but I’ll let that slide, because the over-all flavor on the plate was really good and very satisfactory. I was stuffed.
The garlic knots that came with it were a highlight. These weren’t no Little Ceasar’s bullshit bread wads or whatever crap the fast food pizza pushers are offering these days. They seemed as though they were made from hand-twisted pizza dough, and they were very substantial, but soft, and savory, and not overly-garlicky, or greasy. They were perfect, and they went perfectly with the Bolognese sauce. YUM! What’s better than a good red sauce and good bread? Not much.
The portion was huge – I had leftovers for lunch the next day and was stuffed again – the price was right, and the counter seating was comfortable enough. The atmosphere was more or less what you’d expect from any book store/laundry mat/micro brew/family style Italian food-window-y type of place. The service was friendly, one-on-one at the bar, and you get to watch the bartender crush beer cans in a beer can crusher. Cool!
June got the Chicken Gorgonzola Alfredo, and Rick got the Chicken Pesto Stromboli. I tasted both and they were really good, especially the Stromboli, which was juicy and pesto-y and had an awesome doughy crust.
Having only been there the one time, I don’t know what the consistency of quality is like, but based on my sole visit with my two favorite Food Stalkers, I’ll be back to try Del Vec’s again, and I think that you guys will like it too.
Bring your laundry!
THE VILLAGE WAYSIDE TAVERN – Biltmore Village
I went to The Wayside last week for the first time and had a very enjoyable burger! Yes I eat a lot of burgers. I’m an unmarried American dude, after all. You wouldn’t question a goldfish for eating dang fish flakes for it’s entire life would you? Same thing.
Anyhoodles, The Wayside is a nice little bar/pub type of place: kinda dark, and cozy, with wooden furniture and lots of barroom/railroad type of decorations on the wall. The railroad stuff is because it’s right next to the tracks, basically, and I guess it used to be called The Depot, so maybe the building was actually a train depot at one time? I dunno. I’ll have to get my research assistant working on that. Oh wait. I don’t have one, and I’m lazy as fuck, so you’ll have to do that research yourselves. Let me know what you find out!
The burger was a good size, and well proportioned to the bun, which was nice and soft and tasty. The waitress was very friendly and pro, and seemed like she’d been good at her job for a long time. She asked me how I wanted my burger cooked, I said medium rare, and that’s exactly how it came out. I also asked for my fries to be crispy, and again, they came back the way I asked: golden brown and nicely crisped. Which is kinda how I think fries should always be, so I don’t know why I have to even remember to ask, but whatevs. My life is just really really hard like that, I guess.
The burger and fries totally met, and even exceeded, my expectations. A good pub burger, in a good olde fashioned pub. Nothing fancy, nothing nasty. I at the shit out of it it, and I plan on going back to The Wayside with my mom and step-dad, because I think they will both really like it too.
My three lunch-mates had a turkey club, a cuban sandwich, and the brisket.
Turkey Club Friend said it was “about how a turkey club should be.”
Cuban Sandwich Friend said it was “really good, even though it’s not on Cuban bread.” (It was on ciabatta, I think.)
Brisket Friend said it was “Great!” His onion rings looked hella fuckin’ good. I shoulda had one. He offered. I’m an idiot.
Brisket Friend also went on to say that Cuban bread is kind of trashy anyways and that ciabatta might be the better option.
That lead to a discussion about how the trashiest, white hot dog rolls, grilled in butter and then filled with fucking awesome lobster salad is the frickin’ bomb-diggity-ass-bomb… and that lead us to wondering if maybe the authentic trashy Cuban bread isn’t actually part of the charm of the Cuban sandwich, as the hot dog roll is with the traditional New England lobster roll, and whether the ciabatta, although a higher quality of bread in general, might actually be distracting from the over-all Cuban sandwich experience.
My friends and I talk a lot about food.
Don’t even get my mother started.